At its June 15 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board named not one, but two, Outstanding Alumnae of the Month: Rita Ann Allison and Brenda Ann Allison.
The sisters come from a family of six children, three boys and three girls. They are of the Red Running into the Water People Clan born for the Bitter Water Clan. They were born and raised in Leupp, Arizona, a community located near the southwestern corner of the Navajo Reservation.
Rita, older than her sister by two years, went to Leupp K-8 Public School. At her commencement she earned “most athletic award” honors. She went on to attend East Flag Junior High for one year and for grades 10 through 12 attended Coconino High School. She played varsity basketball and during her senior year was awarded the “Stan Townsend Athletic Award.” Because of her athletic prowess, she was drawn to NPC that, at the time, had a thriving girls’ basketball program. She graduated NPC in 1990 with an Associate of General Studies (AGS) degree.
Brenda’s early life greatly mirrors that of her older sister. She, too, attended Leupp, East Flag and Coconino. She elected to attend NPC because, pointing to her big sister, “She was there.” During her two years at NPC, Brenda managed the boys’ basketball team.
The two sisters attended Painted Desert Campus while at NPC and, laughingly recall their experiences as dormitory students. “Dormitories then were the motels in Holbrook,” says Brenda. “We lived at the Sun and Sand and ate at the Plainsman Restaurant. The closest thing to home was probably Claude’s house,” Rita jokes, referring to NPC instructor and ECD program head, Claude Endfield. “We used to cook for her. She liked it,” said Rita. “Well, she said she did!” commented Brenda. In fact, it was Endfield who nominated the fun-loving sisters for the Outstanding Alum award.
Rita continued her education at Northern Arizona University earning a Bachelor of Education degree and teaching certificate in 1995. That’s when she began the career she still pursues fifteen years later as a physical education and health teacher in the Leupp Schools, Inc. Rita also continued on with grad school while she worked, graduating with distinction from NAU with a Master’s of Education in Bilingual and Multicultural Education in spring of 2005.
Brenda graduated from NPC in 1992 with an Associate of Science degree, and a few years later headed to Polson, Montana to attend Salish Kootenai’ College where she earned an Associate of Science in Nursing. She returned to Arizona, married and became the mother of two children, a boy and a girl. While her husband is working out of state, she is currently living in Leupp with her two children, her dad, sister Rita and another niece. When she returns to the Valley, in addition to being a self-described “domestic engineer,” she is an on-call certified nurse assistant in a facility caring for elderly psychiatric patients.
A favorite activity shared by the two sisters is annual participation in the “Climb to Conquer Cancer,” a seven-mile hike up the San Francisco peaks outside of Flagstaff. They do the climb in honor of their mother whom they lost in November 2005. Brenda is also a talented seamstress who enjoys making star-pattern quilts and handbags. Rita is a cookout/grilling fanatic (“any kind of weather”) and both confess to being nuts about bingo!
While Rita thinks students who are considering what to do after high school should “do what they want and not what others want them to do,” Brenda offers a caution. “You need your education. Anymore, no one is going to hire someone with only a GED or high school diploma.” However, both agree that starting at NPC is a good decision. Rita compares learning at NPC with NAU. “At NPC, there’s lots of teacher to student one-on-one. In a university class, you’re just one in a hundred.”
Both sisters expressed appreciation of Claude Endfield, “not only for nominating us for this award, but for her support even after we completed our education in Holbrook.”
As outstanding NPC alumnae, the Allisons receive commemorative plaques, three-credit-hour tuition gift certificates, $25 bookstore gift certificates as well as passes to NPC Performing Arts events.